Originally posted February 2004

Credits:

Thanks to the myriad folks I've known through my life, and (for varying reasons) to Barry, Guthrum, Carl, George, Ian, Lou, especially Bob… and life in general, for this article.

Random thoughts in the traditional month of Love…

Some time ago I tried defining love, in discussion with some folks I knew. We came up with some interesting dichotomies. I've also listened (sometimes with great bemusement) to a lot of women and men over the years, discussing their husbands, wives, and intimate friends. I have what I think is a working definition of Love, but I know it isn't for everyone. It's initially easier, I think, to define what love is not. You can also skip that depressing realistic part, and just read about what I think Love is.

Symbols & emotions

"Love at first sight" is the basis for a huge, financially profitable section of the entertainment industry — but I still don't believe in it. From what I've seen, it's really either lust (i.e. "MUST have sex with pretty person!") or limerence (i.e. being infatuated or having a crush; specifically the longing to be in a perfect, romantic relationship with another person who is perceived as the ideal mate) [use this link if the other one is dead]. If the participants are lucky, these feelings can mature into love.

There's nothing wrong with lust; it's an important part of Love. However, one shouldn't fall into the trap of believing having sex with someone means you automatically love them. Yes, we may call it 'making love,' but unless the love is there first… it's not.

Love includes sharing — it shouldn't be confused with duty or fidelity. Sharing a mutual pleasure is loving. As an example, I don't drink coffee, but my sweetie does. Occasionally I'll make coffee for him. He takes great pleasure from that, which is why I do it. That, and I am not required to make coffee for him — it is a gift. Just as surely, he knows he is not required to drink the coffee. That's what makes it loving: doing something you enjoy, for someone who enjoys what you're doing. If I knew I had to make the coffee every morning or he'd sulk, or if he knew I'd whine unless he drank the coffee right away while it was still hot — then it's no longer love; it has become duty. The same is true of any shared ritual between people. When you must participate, it's no longer an expression of caring — it's a requirement, a sign of duty and fidelity.

There are lots of these sorts of rituals-on-demand. Putting down the toilet seat, keeping a clean house, bringing home the paycheck — if it's demanded, or done in order to elicit a particular response, then it's no longer about love… it's about control. Other signs of controlling behaviors are feeling possessive or jealous, or using manipulation or other emotional tricks to get the results you want from someone.

"Love withers under constraint: its very essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy, nor fear: it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited where its votaries live in confidence, equality, and un-reserve."
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

People aren't property! You can't trick or force someone into loving you. If you do this crap with someone you're pretending to love, you're lying — to yourself and them. Grow up.

I've also heard some claim love is not being able to live without that certain someone. From where I stood, it sure looked like nothing more than emotional dependency (or possibly laziness) to me. People are not a drug! When I was a child I couldn't live without my parents, but I don't need to behave like a child any more; I can't live without oxygen or food, but I don't mistake them for my beloveds.

(more tomorrow)

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